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‘We’re Not an Island’: Rural Outbreaks Challenge Oregon’s Virus Success – The New York Times

Oregon was sandwiched between two states that had big coronavirus outbreaks but managed to keep its numbers low. Until it couldn’t.



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HERMISTON, Ore. Jose Garcia reached into the bed of his pickup truck and gingerly withdrew a sealed plastic bag. Inside was a homemade mask Mr. Garcia had been given by a worker in one of the sprawling agricultural fields that surround his home in northeastern Oregon. The mask was made of a single, neatly folded paper towel with a rubber band stapled to each end.
When I saw this, I kind of cried, Mr. Garcia said.
In an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Mr. Garcia, an addiction counselor, spends his days off volunteering to deliver masks from the local health department to field workers. Like many residents of rural Oregon, Mr. Garcia is bracing for a spike in coronavirus cases that feels all but inevitable as local farms and food processing facilities transition into harvest season.
Oregon, once one of the most successful states in managing the pandemic, is now undergoing a viral surge in rural areas. Agricultural areas like Umatilla County, where Mr. Garcia lives and works, now have some of the highest rates of cases in Oregon.
I know its going to get worse, Mr. Garcia said. Its almost like were on our own.
The coronavirus struck Oregon early, with cases emerging in February. But unlike two of its neighboring states, Washington and California, Oregon was not quickly overwhelmed by the pandemic. The state has recorded more than 12,000 infections, far fewer than most of its neighbors. But as the state reopens after an early lockdown, cases are spiking. The state set a grim record on Thursday with 389 new infections.

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